Copyright (Part 1 and 2 of 2), or, ‘Oh Brother!’

Part 1

Its been all round twitter for a few days now, so you’ve probably heard that one of the latest incidences of advertisings liberal ‘borrowing’ (for which, in this case, we can probably use the word ‘copying’) of ideas from other people and places, involves GSA vis com person James Houston.

It’s not the first time that this work has been emulated, but previously its been in a completely different context. We wish Jim well with whatever action he might need to take, and imagine that we’d hopefully see, via the internet and social media, a fairly swift re-dressing of this creative liberty.

There is in addition a more complex back story to this, about Jim’s dealings with the company that used the idea. You can pick up on that in the other online discussions.

In the interests of journalistic balance, Brother have already posted this comment to the youtube video;

“Brother is a business that operates to high ethical principles, and we are therefore concerned to read some of the comments expressed here.
This film is part of a campaign that we commissioned from an external advertising agency. We have asked them to investigate the points being raised and to reassure us about the creative process behind it.”
Antony Peart, European Marketing and Communications Manager, BrotherEU

Make of that what you will.

Part 2

My own personal views on the rights and wrongs of copyright law are mixed. As a law, it is fairly arcane, and what seems worse is that in situations such as this, it appears to do little to support the (often smaller, less wealthy) originator of the work. As an issue, it has come up in other degree shows, with other people accusing students of using music etc in pieces that they have made, without proper permission. I would argue that this is a completely different set of circumstances, differentiated primarily by the lack of commercial gain or motivation in the latter cases.

I also think that, in a broader context, a free flow of materials and ideas is a good way to recognise and celebrate the fact that nothing is dreamt up in a vacuum, and that ideas come about from combinations of influences. But this is completely different to lifting and replicating an idea wholesale for purely financial gain. An important foundation of this is the acknowledgement of sources and influences – again, something the Brother incident fails to do. People may disagree with this, and we would be happy to extend this discussion in the studio. It might form a useful starting point for some of the professional and ethical discussions we plan to instigate in the second term. More on that later. In terms of further reading in this area, I think this and these are good starting points.